You’ve probably read statistics lately that murder rates are up across the nation. You’ve probably been barraged with reports of murders across the Bay Area. There’s a grain of truth to the rise in the murder rate, but the figures have also been exaggerated. Regardless, people across the country are wondering how to keep themselves and their neighborhoods safe.
One old fashioned, but effective way, to keep your neighborhood safe is to start a neighborhood watch group. It is a commitment, but it costs nothing and it can yield safer neighborhoods. Here’s how to get started (from the National Crime Prevention Council):
- Phase One: Getting Started — Meetings, Block Captains, and Maps
- Form a small planning committee of neighbors to discuss needs, the level of interest, possible challenges, and the Watch concept.
- Contact the local police or sheriffs’ department, or local crime prevention organization, to discuss Neighborhood Watch and local crime problems. Invite a law enforcement officer to attend your meeting.
- Publicize your meeting at least one week in advance with door-to-door fliers and follow up with phone calls the day before.
- Select a meeting place that is accessible to people with disabilities.
- Hold an initial meeting to gauge neighbors’ interest; establish purpose of program; and begin to identify issues that need to be addressed. Stress that a Watch group is an association of neighbors who look out for each other’s families and property, alert the police to any suspicious activities or crime in progress, and work together to make their community a safer and better place to live.
Phase Two: When the neighborhood decides to adopt the Watch idea Elect a chairperson.
- Ask for block captain volunteers who are responsible for relaying information to members on their block, keeping up-to-date information on residents, and making special efforts to involve the elderly, working parents, and young people. Block captains also can serve as liaisons between the neighborhood and the police and communicate information about meetings and crime incidents to all residents.
- Establish a regular means of communicating with Watch members—e.g., newsletter, telephone tree, e-mall, fax, etc.
- Prepare a neighborhood map showing names, addresses, and phone numbers of participating households and distribute to members. Block captains keep this map up to date, contacting newcomers to the neighborhood and rechecking occasionally with ongoing participants.
- With guidance from a law enforcement agency, the Watch trains its members in home security techniques, observation skills, and crime reporting. Residents also learn about the types of crime that affect the area.
- If you are ready to post Neighborhood Watch signs, check with law enforcement to see if they have such eligibility requirements as number of houses that participate in the program. Law enforcement may also be able to provide your program with signs. If not, they can probably tell you where you can order them.
- Organizers and block captains must emphasize that Watch groups are not vigilantes and do not assume the role of the police. They only ask neighbors to be alert, observant, and caring—and to report suspicious activity or crimes immediately to the police.
I would also add that neighborhood watch groups should take advantage of social media. Form a Facebook group or join a site like NextDoor, which you can limit to just your neighborhood.
Try to keep your group light and fun. Ask the police department to meet with the neighbors once a year. Plan barbecues and block parties or potlucks.
Remember, the more the merrier. Arguments will happen, but the block captain should try to keep everyone on the same page. Who knows, you might even make some friends.
Featured image via Wikipedia.